MANAGUA, Nicaragua – A U.S. citizen jailed for nearly two years on money-laundering and drug charges in Nicaragua will be freed after a court unanimously upheld his appeal, his lawyer said Wednesday.
Attorney Fabbrith Gomez said the appeals court vacated the charges against Jason Puracal, 35, of Tacoma, and ordered him released immediately.
“We are happy, everyone that worked for this is happy,” he said.
Gomez said it could be a matter of hours or days before the University of Washington graduate, who worked as a real estate agent in Nicaragua, is released from the prison right outside Managua, the capital.
The court was supposed to have announced its ruling by Sept. 4, according to Nicaraguan law, but Gomez said he wasn’t until Wednesday.
Details of the decision to free Puracal were not immediately available. There was no immediate confirmation from court officials.
Gomez had argued to the appeals court that Puracal’s home sales were legitimate business deals and were not related in any way to drug traffickers.
Puracal made the Pacific coast beach town of San Juan del Sur his home after a two-year stint in Nicaragua with the Peace Corps. He married a Nicaraguan woman and they had a son.
In late 2010, masked policeman raided his real estate office and took him to Nicaragua’s maximum security prison. Prosecutors charged that Puracal was using his business as a front for money laundering in a region used to transport cocaine from Colombia to the United States.
He was convicted in August 2011 of all charges and later sentenced to 22 years in prison.
Puracal’s family and friends and human rights groups maintained the charges were false. U.S. lawmakers supported Puracal by sending letters to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega.